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Destination Newport-Lunch at the Mansion

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Ok, so I wasn’t actually invited to lunch at the home of some wealthy New York socialite who summers in the snotty yachtie capital of the US. But I am here in Newport, Rhode Island, visiting my yacht captain husband and I did have a tasty salad and chocolate chip cookie in what was the carriage house,now turned cafe, of the Elms, a mansion modelled after an 18th century French chateau. Luckily the Elms, along with several other Newport mansions, has been preserved for future generations to appreciate and is open to the public year round.

About five buildings, the size of your average residential home, could fit inside the fancy shmancy carriage house. So I was anxious to get a look at the inside of the main building. I was not to be disappointed.

Here’s a picture of what was considered the "Summer cottage" of coal millionaire, Edward Berwind.

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The effort put into the over the top opulence of the decor can only be described as "keeping up with the Jones’s" on steroids. With its massive rooms full of intricately carved marble fireplaces, mouldings and cornices, 17th and 18th century artwork, tapestries, renaissance ceramics and antique furnishings from Paris, not to mention a magnificient grand piano entirely covered in gold leaf, it’s obvious no expense was spared by the owner to impress his peers. Even the bathrooms are so elaborately decorated, it’s a wonder anyone would ever feel comfortable enough to use them for their naturally intended purpose!

And, in case you’re fantasizing about how romantic and fun it must have been for the wives vacationing in these luxurious homes, think again. I found out on the tour that between supervising the servants, receiving callers, holding tea parties and bridge games, planning the next ball, and participating in various activities such as golf, sailing and cycling, these women never had one spare moment to relax and enjoy their beautiful surroundings. Beside all that, it was also considered in very poor taste if you didn’t don a completely different outfit appropriate for every occasion, activity and even time of day. So along with all the social responibilities, it was customary for these ladies to change several times a day in order to keep the status quo. And we all know the clothing back then wasn’t the easiest to get into and out of. It appears being a rich society matron at the turn of the century was a positively exhausting job!

Tomorrow I’m off to Rosecliff, the mansion where they filmed "The Great Gatsby". Am very excited to see this one, as part of the tour includes an historic fashion exhibit.

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This entry was posted on August 22, 2007, in Travel.

Sunday is Fun Day at Todd Farm Flea Market

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Headed out this morning for a fun day of poking around the Todd Farm Flea Market on Route 1A in Rowley, Ma. Of course, this is like the appetizer before the big Brimfield Show I’m going to in a couple of weeks. 

Dealers set up at Todd Farm at approximately 3AM every Sunday from April to November, and many  buyers show up while its still dark to get first dibs on the goods.

Of course, I could not drag myself out of bed that early, but still managed to pick up some cool stuff. A lovely vintage 1950s white lace full skirt party dress with satin cummerbund waist, that would make a gorgeous casual wedding dress. Also a 50s blue print silk full skirted cocktail dress, 40s black satin wide leg pants and a ton of fun vintage jewelry.

If ever in the Boston area, this is another great place to check out if you love rummaging through piles of stuff, searching for hidden treasures. There are hundreds of dealers, with sellers of higher end antiques and collectibles mixed in with people selling a hodgepodge of eclectic items. It’s a true flea market atmosphere that’s perfect for those who enjoy the thrill of the hunt.

Here are a few pictures taken from the photo archives on their website, so you can get an idea of the type of things you’ll find there on a regular basis. There is also a great selection of furniture, ephemera, artwork, textiles, kitchen collectibles. You name it, there’s probably someone selling it.

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Since it closes down at 1pm, it’s always nice to continue on down 1A afterwards into Ipswich and Essex, where there are plenty of antique shops to browse through and, of course, restaurants where you can order famous Ipswich clams. Can’t think of a better way to spend a Sunday in New England!

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Cool Vintage Shopping on Boston’s North Shore

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Am currently based in Boston for this leg of my trip and took a ride to the burbs yesterday to visit a dear friend.  She lives about  a half hour north of the city and, of course, we had to do the ladies who lunch and shop thing. 

So we set off for the scenic seaside town of Newburyport , which is filled with fabulously unique boutiques and fun little cafes. On the way we passed an interesting consignment store, named Moxie, on Route 1 in Rowley, MA. Of course I had to check it out.  Though the owner doesn’t have a website, you can visit this link  for customer reviews of her shop.  This is definitely the north shore of Boston’s best kept secret for quality designer consignment and cool vintage fashions.  Her collection of vintage costume jewelry is some of the best I’ve seen.

Picked up some lovely 50s strapless tulle prom dresses, an amazing Pat Premo floral print full skirted sundress, and a black brocade cocktail dress with a draped sarong front skirt. I also found a nice novelty print Nelly De Grab skirt that I don’t think I can part with. I’m picturing it with red platform wedge heeled sandals and a red halter top. So off to do more shopping!

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Road Trip-Vintage Shopping in Selma N.C.

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Am off on my yearly summer buying trip, which consists of driving and shopping my way up the east coast from Florida to Maine.

One great place I stumbled upon for vintage and antique finds is Selma, North Carolina. Just off interstate 95, at exit 98, it sits just about in the center of the state.  This cute little town, with its dozens of unique shops, was a nice respite after hours of driving through what I can only describe as "Mullet Country".

Now, don’t get me wrong. The southern part of the US is beautiful in many ways. But its lovely landscape is often marred by a proliferation of men wearing very bad 80s hairdos. The mullet is a look that should never have been in style in the first place, never mind back in style.

But for some reason it has become the requisite retro coiff of choice for southern gentlemen who have a penchant for pickup trucks, bass fishing and nascar races.  Here’s a picture of David Spade in "Joe Dirt" , in case you’re having trouble visualizing. From what I’ve read, they refer to this style as "business in the front, party in the back". How quaint.

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Ok, now back to more pleasant subjects. The people in Selma  are super friendly and I found the dealers in the shops very helpful. If they don’t have what you’re looking for, they have no trouble sending you to a fellow dealer who can help you out.

Here are just a few of the goodies I was able to hunt down. A very girlie 1950s GiGi Young black full skirted sundress trimmed with vertical strips of white cotton pique that have bow accents on the skirt,  a stunning 50s pale pink brocade full skirted party dress with draped neckline, a 60s blue and green floral chiffon sheath style cocktail dress with ruched waistband, a cute DeWeese sundress and an 80s red polka dot Victor Costa strapless party dress. So far, so good! If I get around to it, I’ll try and take some photos.

There’s a nice little blog about Selma, including old photos, history and some links to the antique and vintage shops in town. Highly recommend stopping there if you’re ever in the area.  This cute little town is a vintage shopper’s paradise. So don’t let the mullets deter you!

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